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Meet Our 2014 Executives of the Year

Multi-Shop winner Tom Griffin, president, Mayfield Collision Centers, and Single-Shop winner Rachel Minshall, body shop manager, Soerens Ford.

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Tom Griffin, president and founder of Mayfield Collision Centers, and Rachel Minshall, body shop manager of Soerens Ford, were honored with BodyShop Business’s prestigious Collision Repair Shop Executive of the Year award on July 31, 2014 at NACE | CARS.

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Griffin won in the Multi-Shop category, and Minshall won in the Single-Shop category. This was the first time since BodyShop Business began handing out the award in 1984 that it gave out two awards, feeling it important to distinguish between bigger shop organizations and smaller ones.

The aim of the award has always been to recognize true collision repair “visionaries” who have experienced great success through innovative thinking, overcoming challenges and persevering.

Griffin’s collision career spans more than 40 years. He now leads a two-store operation in Cleveland, Ohio, that’s described as a “thriving family business that provides an extraordinary experience for customers and a rewarding work environment for employees.”

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The main reason for the BodyShop Business staff selecting Griffin over dozens of other qualified candidates is his dedication to helping young people find their way in the industry and championing women in the industry by hiring and nurturing many female employees in his company. Also, his industry involvement speaks for itself: past president of Coyote Vision Group, president of the Automotive Service Association Greater Cleveland Chapter, and board member of the Solon Chamber of Commerce.

Mayfield Collision Centers is also the only body shop to participate in GuitarMania, a Greater Cleveland community public art project that has raised $2 million for United Way and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum’s education programs.

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Griffin looked at the award as validation of his efforts and the efforts of his employees as well.

“It was both humbling and reaffirming that the principles and values we’ve long professed and operated our company on are perceived by our customers and employees as the right things to do,” said Griffin. “In this day and age of people talking about SOPs and process, which are important, we’ve always been more of a values- and principles-based company that figures out the SOPs based on those values and principles.”

Although he was honored and privileged to be recognized with the award in Detroit in front of hundreds of his peers, Griffin admitted the “revelry” may last only 30 seconds.

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“Then, we’ll get right back to being very humble and applying the same things that helped us earn that award to new customers today, next week, next month and next year,” he says.

Asked if he will leverage the award via marketing efforts to further distinguish himself and his business, Griffin said he will…but more internally than externally.

“Over the last six months, we’ve earned three coveted awards: one of the top 10 body shops in the country, Executive of the Year and one of the 99 Best Places to Work in Northeast Ohio – the first body shop ever to receive that award. The most important thing for us to do is stay humble and motivated and inspired to action by our daily actions, thoughts and decisions and how we interact with employess, insurers and customers. We will do some external marketing, but I want to make sure we don’t do too much chest pounding. It’s not in our DNA to stand on a soapbox.”

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With all the consolidation going on and the big shops getting bigger, Griffin is well aware what the
future may hold for his operation. However, he insists their strategy will be to grow through quality, not quantity.

“A number of shops have grown through quantity and then fell on their faces in the customer’s viewpoint,” he says. “We now have 59 employees, up from 39 three or four years ago. We’re looking for the right situation from a quantity standpoint, growing through additional locations but not doing it too fast. We want to be well-known and respected in the communities we do business in, so if we have to compete with consolidators, hopefully that will give us a leg up. I don’t feel any fire under me to go out and buy three shops just so I can say I have that market share and be more attractive to a consolidator.”

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The BodyShop Business Multi-Shop Executive of the Year award is merely the latest in a long list of achievements Griffin and his business have achieved. Still, there is one more goal left on the table he hopes to accomplish.

“My goal has always been, but with much more of a sense of urgency now, to have this company be able to operate with less and less dependence on me, which it’s close to today. I could probably be gone four months and this company would not miss a beat. But it’s all about developing my people and making this company sustainable. We’re well on our way, but there is more work to be done.

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“As I get older, what I enjoy more than ever is coaching and grooming and developing younger talent. We do this every day. Out of our 59 employees, we have at least 14 people who started in the detail bay. We have furthered their career, and we want to do more of that.”

Griffin knows that he and the rest of the industry are staring a major problem square in the face: an aging technician population and a weak influx of young people ready to take their spots.

“We always said it was an issue, even 20 years ago when we could put our shoulder down and grunt our way through it,” he says.

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But he has figured out that growing his own people is the way to go.

“We get 90 percent of our employees from employee referrals, and that has proven to be a tremendous recipe for success,” Griffin says. “A lot of shops hire when they needed someone two months ago, so they lower their standards and throw someone in the position. When we hire, we’re not really looking for people. If we are looking for people, that means we needed them two months ago and are hoping we can hire Superman and fill that void.”

Rachel Minshall echoed Griffin’s comments on what receiving the award means to her when she said it validates her efforts and the best practices she has put in place at her shop.

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“I’ve taken lots of different classes to keep learning and used little bits of everything I’ve learned over the years from the beginning of my career all the way through and put all those little things in to make this body shop grow and be at the top of its game at all times,” said Minshall. “[This award] gives us all more confidence and validates our efforts to know that we’re doing the right thing and that we will continue to make customers our top priority.”

Soerens Ford shared Minshall’s achievement on Facebook and Twitter and received lots of positive responses.

“People called and said, ‘We already knew you were the Executive of the Year, you didn’t need an award to tell us,’” Minshall said. “I feel really proud. I’ve been here 18 years, and I feel like we did this all together. I couldn’t have done it without all the support around me.”

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The next goal for Minshall is twofold: to help her shop grow, and to teach her daughter that anything is possible.

“We are going through a significant remodel right now where we will be growing the entire dealership, so I’m excited to be part of that and to show how good our body shop really is. I also am raising my daughter to know that whatever she wants to do she can do, no matter who tells her that she can’t. I started off right from high school going to the Ford Asset Program where there was no other women in the class and no women in the business, yet I did it. I started here changing oil, and then went from that to service writing to winning all the awards in service and then going on to be body shop manager. No matter where you start, you can always go to the top.”

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